Friday, March 29, 2019
It's estimated that there are over 27 million people with physical challenges in Nigeria. While many can be seen begging for alms on the streets of Lagos, there is one of them who has decided to stand out. Deji Badmus has his story.
Nigerian-American teen activist Zuriel Oduwole has been honoured by the Nelson Mandela Foundation for her work on girls' education in Africa. Before the age of 10, Oduwole started campaigning to keep girls in school. CGTN's Julie Scheier caught up with Oduwole, while she was in Johannesburg.
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
The fear for scientists and health professionals at the time was that the virus had mutated into a deadlier strain, perhaps one that can be passed through the air, like the flu. Such a change could be catastrophic.
Genetic sequencing of Lassa virus genomes taken from patients revealed the virus was neither a dangerous new strain nor being passed from person to person through the air; the multifarious results, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, pointed to a diverse range of Lassa viruses which had previously been seen in Nigeria, ruling out a new form, and it was determined that the increase had not been caused by a mutation or new route in transmission.
The cases continue to spike this year; from Jan. 1 to Feb. 10. The World Health Organization reported 324 confirmed cases and 72 deaths across Nigeria, the majority of them in Edo and Ondo states in Nigeria’s south. Fatalities are hovering around 20%, which is high for Lassa, and while the virus is not a mutant—the worst-case scenario—the reason for the dramatic rise remains a mystery. On Jan. 22, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control declared the outbreak an emergency.
Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola, but less lethal. Mortality rates for confirmed cases between Jan. 1 and Mar. 17 this year is 23%. The virus is zoonotic, meaning it jumps from an animal reservoir to a human being; the most common reservoir of Lassa is the multimammate rat.
Humans usually become infected through contact with the rat’s urine or feces. In non-fatal cases, the virus usually causes mild symptoms—including fever, headache, and weakness—and often goes undiagnosed. While Lassa is a viral hemorrhagic fever, the bleeding famously associated with a small percentage of Ebola cases is extremely rare.
Scientists use genetic sequencing to determine the order of the four chemical building blocks which make up DNA. This order tells them what kind of information is coded into that DNA, as well as what type of virus it is. While the assays used to test the virus’ genomic sequence were not new, the speed with which the information was analyzed and put to action—and where it was performed—was new.
Years of partnership and preparation between the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Disease (ACEGID), the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in southern Nigeria, and the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Broad Institute ensured the samples were rapidly sequenced in Nigeria by local labs.
This response, marked by cooperation and in-country capability, may be the model for the years ahead, as scientists from both Broad in the US and Nigeria believe the chances are high of emerging virus outbreaks occurring more frequently.
The test results identified the subtypes of Lassa fever causing the infections, and where in the country they were. That information was quickly made available to health officials at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control for use in determining the best course of action for handling the outbreak with a speed that would not have been possible if it had to have been tested overseas.
“That is very important, because that has immediate implications in terms of countermeasures to block it,” says Christian Happi, centre director and principal investigator at ACEGID.
Genomic analysis has often been reactive, completed long after an outbreak had run its course.
“With the improvement of technique and also greater collaboration between partners we’re able to have these results in real-time to influence the actual control of the outbreak that we are managing,” says Chikwe Ihekweazu, director general of the NCDC.
Analysis from end to end was done on the ground in Nigeria, according to Happi. Scientists at Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital sent confirmed samples to ACEGID, at Redeemer’s University, Ede, Osun state, Nigeria. ACEGID teams extracted the virus’ RNA, converted it to DNA, then broke it into component parts, reassembling a complete genome of the virus that could be compared to sequenced viruses from previous cases. The process took about three to four days per sample.
Results from the ACEGID sequencing were sent to the NCDC when they were considered actionable. The results were cross-checked at Broad, while both institutions then continued to test the samples to provide a larger data set, replicating sets of each other’s samples for consistency, Siddle says.
“As we got the result, we shared the report with the NCDC, and they swung into action,” says Happi. Putting the people, infrastructure, and capability required for rapid analysis on firm footing took roughly five years. The collaboration between the labs of Broad Institute member Pardis Sabeti, Happi’s lab at Redeemer’s University, and scientists at Irrua laid the groundwork for the 2018 Lassa response.
“They’ve worked together for a number of years to understand various different aspects of Lassa virus,” explains Katherine Siddle, a postdoctoral fellow at Broad and Harvard. “Through that, they kind of really built up a vision for doing infectious disease genomics in West Africa.”
The Lassa fever outbreak provided a first chance to demonstrate that vision.
Scientists and health officials believe outbreaks of emerging viruses like Lassa, Ebola, Marburg and Nipah are likely going to increase in the future. As human expansion and climate change shifts the boundaries between people and animals, forcing them closer together than ever before, the chance for zoonotic viruses to jump species increases.
Nations where these viruses are endemic or where completely novel ones are likely to emerge can take cues from Nigeria’s model. The ability to handle an outbreak within their own borders may prove the difference that prevents a pandemic.
The in-country model makes sense from both scientific and practical standpoints, says Siddle. Building the infrastructure required to control an outbreak in the midst of one is challenging in and of itself; when outbreaks occur in regions destabilized by violence—as Ebola currently is in the Democratic Republic of Congo—even more so. The speed with which information can be analyzed and provided to health officials, much faster when handled in-country, is crucial; the virus is not awaiting samples from overseas.
“To answer the big public health problems of our time, collaboration will be critical,” says Ihekweazu. “No single group of scientists is going to come up with some magic bullet to save the world.”
Those big public health problems will increasingly lay in places like West Africa, where a booming population and rapidly developing economy make for perfect conditions for a virus to spread. “These are our problems,” Ihekweazu notes. “We need to be able to be at least part of the solution.”
Improvements in one country’s capabilities may have an impact far beyond their borders. A nation which can contain outbreaks quickly, accurately, and in-country is better positioned to curtail a pandemic.
By B. David Zarley
Paul Onuachu's strike is Nigeria's fastest ever international goal.
According to Uefa the fastest ever competitive international goal was scored by Belgium's Christian Benteke just after 8.1 seconds against Gibraltar in October 2016.
Elsewhere, Senegal needed Sadio Mane to come off the bench and help them to a win over Mali.
Also on Tuesday Algeria beat Tunisia, Ivory Coast beat Liberia, Ghana won at home to Mauritania and Morocco were beaten by Argentina.
With the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt fast approaching, it was an important round of matches for coaches and players.
Nigeria's Denmark-based Onuachu, who was making his full international debut, seized his opportunity to make an impact.
The ball was chipped forward for him to run on to, he took it round the defender with one touch and then scored with his second to stun Egypt and delight the still settling crowd.
It was the only goal in a game which pitted two of the major contenders for the Nations Cup crown together, and Egypt - with the rested Mohamed Salah absent - tested the Super Eagles as well.
Herve Renard's Morocco were beaten, going down 1-0 to Argentina, who were without Lionel Messi, thanks to an 83rd minute goal from Angel Correa.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni admitted his side had been tested by the Atlas Lions.
"It was a tough game, Morocco has good players and were supported well by their fans," he said.
"We're happy to win the game despite the difficult conditions, especially the strong wind (in Tangier) and had a negative impact on the players and the quality of the overall game.
"We were looking for victory to satisfy our fans and make them confident in our team following the last defeat (3-1 to Venezuela)."
Morocco coach Herve Renard was not impressed by the standard of the football.
"I was bored... this is the first time in my career that I went into a locker room at half-time and I had nothing to say to my players - we did everything except playing football," he said.
"It was not a football game - but a fight. The plans (choice of opponents) for the Nations Cup will depend on the draw."
Salah may have been absent but his Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane came off the bench for Senegal to rescue a win for them against Mali.
They were a goal down with three minutes remaining when Mane skipped past several defenders into the box and scored with a low shot to level it at 1-1.
And well into stoppage time Mane had yet more influence on the game as he set up Senegal's winner from Moussa Kounate.
The other matches also featured many of the serious contenders for Egypt 2019 later this year.
Ghana's Black Stars also took an early lead - inside two minutes - against Nations Cup debutants Mauritania in Accra, and they won the game 3-1.
In the North African derby between Algeria and Tunisia, Algeria kept up their stellar record of not losing a game at home in Blida since 2002, with a 1-0 win.
And Ivory Coast left it late, but earned a 1-0 win over Liberia thanks to a 90th minute penalty from Aston Villa's Jonathan Kodjia in Abidjan.
"This Commission will investigate the human and environmental impact of multinational oil company activity and is crucial to the prosperous future of the people of Bayelsa and their environment, Nigeria and hopefully to other oil-producing nations," he said.
Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer. The country's crude oil production -- estimated at over 300 million liters per day -- makes up 70 percent of the Nigerian government's revenue.
This new commission, convened by Bayelsa Governor Seriake Dickson, says that it wants to make oil companies in the region more accountable.
"The world has looked on for too long without taking the necessary collective action to put a stop to the damage being done by oil companies in Bayelsa. We must put the environment and the health and wellbeing of our communities first," Dickson said in a statement Wednesday.
Big oil spills are common in the Niger Delta where over40 million liters of crude oil is spilled annually, resulting in human deaths and damage to the local ecosystem.
A 2018 study by the Journal of Health and Pollution found that more than 12,000 oil spill incidents have occurred in the oil-rich region between 1976 and 2014.
Pipeline corrosion and tanker accidents caused more than 50 percent of them. Other incidents can be attributed to operational error, mechanical failure, and sabotage mostly from militant groups, the study said.
Contaminated lands, water
The Niger Delta is a diverse region with rich mangroves and fish-rich waterways. Many residents try to make their livelihoods from fishing and farming.
Yamaabana Legborsi lives in Gokana in Ogoni, the most affected community, where residents have stopped oil companies from pumping oil from their lands.
The 32-year-old told CNN growing up the community posed both mental and economic challenges to him as a child.
"We could not play in the sand like other children else you are covered in black crude. My mother was especially worried it was not safe, so were other parents.
"We could not also eat the fishes that washed away from the river, you would see crude all around the water," Legborsi said.
The situation has not changed, Legborsi says, despite promises from oil companies clean things up.
"I cannot drink water from my borehole. You can perceive crude oil and kerosene. Many of the residents here drink well water, that is contaminated too," he added.
Experts from the United Nations Environment Programme, (UNEP) in the first scientific survey of the area found that people in Ogoniland had "lived with chronic oil pollution throughout their lives."
UNEP researchers in the 2011 report said it would take 30 years to clean the oil mess left behind.
Oil companies expected to clean up spills within 24 hours under Nigerian law have also been accused of falling short of this obligation.
In a 2018 report, Amnesty International accused Shell and Eni, the two major operators in the Niger Delta, of negligence in their response to oil spills in the area.
The campaign group said the companies' "irresponsible approach" to oil spills had worsened the environmental crisis in the Niger Delta, an allegation both companies have since denied.
Shell in an emailed statement to CNN last year said the report failed to acknowledge the complex environment in which the company operates in the region.
"Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, in collaboration with government regulators, responds to spill incidents as quickly as it can and cleans up spills from its facilities regardless of the cause. We regularly test our emergency spill response procedures and capability to ensure staff and contractors can respond rapidly to an incident," Shell said at the time.
The response time to an oil spill depends on the security situation and the company's ability to access affected areas in the swampy region, the company said.
Related stories: Video - Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate claims responsibility
Oil thieves make away with $250m worth of oil from pipeline in Lagos, Nigeria
Friday, March 22, 2019
It's estimated that about 69 million people in Nigeria lack access to clean water. That's according to the country's National Bureau of Statistics. Worst affected are said to be the rural communities in northern Nigeria.
"I said, 'Let's do a hashtag and let the world know what we do,' " he says. "Young Nigerians are very determined to succeed. What we hear about young Nigerian people is that we are lazy. But we are hardworking. We want to make it."
He was just expecting a couple of dozen people in his network to tweet — but within an hour, he says, the hashtag went viral in Nigeria, prompting thousands of responses.People started sharing posts that promoted not just their side hustles but also their main gigs, from coding to baking to making art.
The hashtag has garnered the praise of Bashir Ahmad, the personal assistant of President Muhammadu Buhari, who wrote on Twitter: "Spent over an hour reading every tweet under #ThisIsMyHustle hashtag, every single tweet made me happy genuinely ... I am super proud of you all."
Jobs are hard to come by in Nigeria, says Abubakar, so many people have to "hustle" to earn money — starting their own businesses or finding side jobs to supplement their main income. According to Nigeria's National Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate in the country was at 23 percent as of the third quarter of 2018.
"Young people finish school and then are not able to find a job," he says. "So they start selling anything they can to make an income. They don't want to burden their parents."
Abubakar knows what that's like. He graduated from the University of Leeds in the U.K. in 2013 with an MBA but says he has not been able to find a white-collar job in his homeland.
So he decided to start his own company. In 2014, he launched Beta Business Forum, which helps small-business owners with marketing and sales. He's also earning money as a real estate agent and a farmer. And he plants cash crops like sorghum and corn.
"This hashtag actually opened my eyes. I had no idea that there were this many Nigerians hustling out there," he adds.
A number of the tweets are about agriculture, which has been hard to sell to youth in sub-Saharan Africa as a viable career.
"Young people [in Africa] face particular barriers that often lead to skepticism about farming as a viable future," wrote Kanayo F. Nwanze, former president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, in 2018. "Youth and other marginalized groups do not see farming as a business, as an economic enterprise."
Sadiq Muhammed Kabir, 24, runs his own import-export business selling ginger root in Kaduna. He was proud to share photos of his work on #ThisIsMyHustle. "Most young people in my country don't really see [farming] as something good," he says. "They forget that farming is very, very lucrative."
Abubakar says he has received a lot of positive feedback over the last few days from business owners who have been tweeting on the hashtag. "They're telling me that they have been getting more clients," he says.
Kabir says that his post has brought in some business too. After he posted his tweet, he says, "my life has never been the same. I got buyers around the world, like Canada, Dubai, even North America."
As with many other hashtag campaigns, some people on Twitter had hilarious responses to the tweets.
Thursday, March 21, 2019
Nigeria's general election may have ended weeks ago but the outcome has left many wondering if the country's democracy is growing at all. More than half of the newly elected members of parliament have no previous legislative experience. That has left many Nigerians worried about their performance.
Tani, an eight-year-old Nigerian chess champion in New York, may be living in the United States as an immigrant but he could be meeting a former American president soon.
When the story of his witty exploits was shared on Twitter, the 42nd US president Bill Clinton reacted to the fact Tani had defied all odds to win his category at the New York State chess championship.
Here is a youngster who was introduced to the game a little over a year ago. “Refugees enrich our nation and talent is universal, even if opportunity is not,” the president wrote.
“This story made me smile. Tanitoluwa, you exemplify a winning spirit – in chess and in life. And kudos to your hardworking parents. You all should stop by my office in Harlem; I’d love to meet you,” he added.
Incidentally, Tani’s three-hour weekly chess practice is in Harlem whiles he practices more often on his father’s laptop.
Full name, Tanitoluwa Adewumi, the chess whiz kid, has been widely covered by international media and local portals back home. His story was first broken by a New York Times, NYT, columnist, Nicolas Kristof.
Tani, his brother and mother currently live in a New York City homeless shelter as immigrants awaiting refugee status. Their next hearing is slated for later this year.
The Adewumis – whose name denote they hail from Nigeria’s southwest according to reports arrived in the United States in 2017 having escaped Boko Haram insurgency – meaning, they must have been living in the northeast, be it Borno, Adamawa or Yobe states.
Mr Adewumi, works as a licensed real estate salesman and doubles as an Uber driver as his wife and sons await asylum request hearing scheduled for August.
The NYT piece that set Tani’s story on a media blitz was achieved after an interview with the family at their shelter in Manhattan. “I want to be the young grandmaster,” Tani told Kristof.
Whiles his biggest achievement yet is as New York State Primary Chess Champion (Top Players K – 3rd Grade), he has won a handful of trophies playing the game.
His mother Oluwatoyin Adewumi was a pillar in his love for chess having backed him in the early stages when he expressed interest in a game that was entirely new to him. Her appeal to Tani’s programme patron had his fees waived.
His patron and tutor spoke highly about Tani’s abilities and grasp of the game. Shawn Martinez his tutor said, “He is so driven. He does 10 times more chess puzzles than the average kid. He just wants to be better.”
A GoFundMetext page set up by NYT readers has far exceeded the target set. As at midday March 20 (GMT), 3,588 contributors had raised $188,253 despite the initial goal being $50,000.
Oil companies including Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil, operate in Nigeria through joint ventures with the state-owned NNPC.
NNPC owns 55 percent stake in its joint venture with Shell and 60 percent stakes with others.
The government has considered reducing its majority stakes in these joint ventures for more than a decade but was under little pressure as higher oil prices boosted state coffers.
Budgets under Muhammadu Buhari, who starts a second term in May, have been Nigeria’s largest ever and the government has been seeking to boost revenue after it emerged from a 2016 recession two years ago.
Budget Minister, Udoma Udo Udoma, said the government will intensify efforts to improve its finances including the “immediate commencement of the restructuring of the joint venture oil assets so as to reduce government shareholding to 40 percent,” he said in a statement.
He added during a presentation to lawmakers that Buhari wanted the oil restructuring completed this year.
Buhari won re-election last month for another four years, defeating his pro-business rival Atiku Abubakar, who had touted selling the state-owned NNPC as one of his key reform policy.
In 2017, the debt office said the government wanted to raise 710 billion naira ($2.32 billion) via restructuring its equity in joint venture oil assets and that it had captured the proposals in the 2018 budget.
In the past, Nigeria has held talks with oil companies regarding financing agreements for joint ventures after it struggled to fund its portion of such partnerships through cash calls which have often been delayed in parliament.
The government has asked the petroleum regulator to collect past-due oil license charges and royalties, within three months.
The country has also ordered oil majors to pay nearly $20 billion in taxes it says are owed to local states.
Buhari has presented an 8.83 trillion naira budget for 2019, laying out plans to drive growth. He has directed NNPC to take measures to achieve the targeted oil production of 2.3 million barrels per day this year, the minister said. ($1 = 306.3000 naira) (Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Lagos was ranked 127 in the survey that compares the cost of more than 150 items such as cars, food, rent, transport and clothing in 133 cities.
The results are a far cry from two years when Lagos was named by estate agent, Savills as the most expensive African city to stay and work in.
The survey is aimed at helping companies calculate compensation packages and allowances for expatriate staff and business travellers.
It also tracks whether prices have gone up or down by comparing them with the cost of living in New York, which is used as a benchmark.
World’s 10 cheapest cities
1. Caracas (Venezuela)
2. Damascus (Syria)
3. Tashkent (Uzbekistan)
4. Almaty (Kazakhstan)
5. Bangalore (India)
6. Karachi (Pakistan)
7. Lagos (Nigeria)
8. Buenos Aires (Argentina)
9. Chennai (India)
10. New Delhi (India)
On the other end of the spectrum, Paris and Hong Kong were tied with Singapore as the world’s most expensive cities to live in.
It was the first time in more than 30 years that three cities shared the top spot, a sign that pricey global cities are growing more alike, said the report’s author, Roxana Slavcheva.
“Converging costs in traditionally more expensive cities … is a testament to globalization and the similarity of tastes and shopping patterns,” she said in a statement.
“Even in locations where shopping for groceries may be relatively cheaper, utilities or transportation prices drive up overall cost of living,” she said.
The top ten list was dominated by Asian and European cities, with Osaka and Seoul in joint fifth and joint seventh places respectively. Zurich (4th), Geneva (joint 5th) and Copenhagen (joint 7th) also in the elite club.
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Atiku Abubakar’s petition said that he, the candidate for the People’s Democratic Party, had beaten the All Progressives Congress’s Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected to a second term on Feb. 23.
“We asked that our candidate who won the election massively across the country be declared the winner,” said Emmanuel Enoidem, a legal advisor to Atiku.
The petition asks that the electoral commission overturns the result “on the grounds of irregularities,” Enoidem said.
Buhari’s campaign has rejected Atiku’s allegations, saying the vote was free and fair.
Buhari, the 76-year-old former military ruler, took 56 percent of the vote against 41 percent for Atiku, a businessman and former vice president.
Monday, March 18, 2019
At least nine people have been killed in Nigeria's Northeastern state of Southern Kaduna. The attack happened on Saturday in a small farming community. No group has claimed responsibility for this latest attack in the area; and neither has any arrest been made yet. Southern Kaduna State has seen a resurgence of violence in recent months, leading to the death of over 150 people.
Friday, March 15, 2019
Workers have reached the foundation of the collapsed three-storey building and don't expect to see any more bodies, IbrahimFarinloye, a National Emergency Management Agency official, told The Associated Press on Thursday.
He declined to give an updated toll of the dead and the rescued.
Officials said late Wednesday that eight people had died and 37 had been pulled out alive. An unknown number remain missing.
Residents said some 100 children had attended the nursery and primary school, and people were searching through the tangle of rubble and metal on Thursday to find any belongings of their loved ones.
A few hundred people watched from nearby as an excavator dug through the remains of the debris.
At the site of the collapse, people searched through the tangle of rubble and metal Thursday to find any belongings of their loved ones. By the afternoon, most of the debris had been cleared away.
"We have been able to pull down the remaining part of the building," said Adebayo Kayende, spokesperson for the Lagos state emergency agency.
"We have moved the debris from the ground to have a clear picture to make sure there are no people under the building."
Kayende said the Lagos state ministry of health was checking with hospitals, and once they had finished counting those dead the details would be made public.
Adesina Tiamiyu, general manager of the Lagos state emergency agency, said the number of children involved was still in question and authorities were trying to find a register of the pupils.
Lagos Gov. Akinwuni Ambode, who visited the site hours after the building collapsed, said the building, which had been marked for demolition, was classified as residential and the school was operating illegally on the top two floors. There will be a full investigation into the incident, he said.
Officials moved through the neighbourhood on Thursday, marking other derelict buildings for demolition.
Obiora Manafa with the Standards Organization of Nigeria told reporters that they would analyze samples of the collapsed building's concrete and steel bars "to ascertain the quality ... and know whether they complied with the national building code."
"It touches one to lose precious lives in any kind of mishap, particularly those so young and tender," Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said.
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Rescue and recovery efforts are going on through the night in the Nigerian city of Lagos, where a three-storey building collapsed on Wednesday. It contained apartments, shops, and a primary school.
Related story: Building collapse in Lagos, Nigeria kills 30
Prophet T.B. Joshua under fire for building collapse in Lagos, Nigeria
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
The 76-year-old former military ruler will have to score a breakthrough that’s eluded previous governments in an area where armed groups and thieves pose a constant threat to the flow of crude. To carry out his plans to develop a backbone of stable power, roads and rail lines for agricultural expansion and industrialization in Africa’s most-populous nation, Buhari needs all the money he can get from oil, the source of two-thirds of government revenue.
“Oil revenue is still what dictates government spending and they will need to keep production going,” said Jubril Kareem, a Lagos-based analyst at Ecobank Energy Research. “Buhari has to be very smart in handling the situation because any disruptions will impact government revenue.”
While armed assaults in the region have eased, sabotage, protests and crude theft for local refining and sale to rogue vessels offshore are undermining Africa’s biggest oil industry.
Exports still haven’t recovered from militant attacks in 2016 that at one point slashed by as much as half the West African nation’s exports and combined with lower oil prices to push the economy into its first contraction in 25 years.
Improving oil flows will require dismantling what Ledum Mitee, a minority rights activist in the delta, calls a “rogue economy” in the area. And Buhari is operating in hostile political terrain. In the presidential elections, he lost in the region to Atiku Abubakar, who’d promised to relinquish some federal control over oil resources if elected.
“While the militancy went down, there was an increase in artisanal refining and crude theft,” Mitee said. “At last count, that industry was employing about half a million youths in the Niger delta.”
Today Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s Nigerian unit and other operators of onshore pipelines face frequent breaches, with the key terminals of Bonny and Forcados often unable to meet export commitments.
The government has failed to meet its revenue targets in the past three years mainly due to lower-than-expected crude volumes, with only about 52 percent of expected income for 2018 realized by August, according to Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed.
In response, the Buhari administration has increased borrowing in local and international markets to pay the bills. The petroleum industry provides 90 percent of Nigeria’s foreign income.
If things don’t improve, the government will have to cut spending and will struggle to service its existing debts, Ahmed said in October. Oil production averaged 1.7 million barrels a day in the first nine months of 2018, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, 600,000 barrels short of the 2.3 million barrels per day on which the budget was based.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. operates joint ventures with Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Total SA and Eni SpA that pump most of the nation’s oil.
Successive governments have failed for decades to deal with the Niger delta problem since ethnic minorities in the area began protesting against environmental damage and its impact on their fishing and farming livelihoods. The domination of the main ethnic groups -- Hausas of the north, the Yorubas of the southwest and the Igbos of the southeast -- and their grip on the oil riches, has fueled the resentment.
After the military government in 1995 executed nine Ogoni activists, including the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, regional unrest spiraled into full-blown armed militancy in the past 15 years.
With Nigeria’s oil exports close to being crippled in 2008 by militant attacks, the then government of President Umaru Yar’adua cut a deal: stop the raids in return for amnesty and a rehabilitation plan for fighters, and a commitment to address the region’s demands for more local control of oil.
More than 20,000 former fighters signed on, receiving skills training and monthly stipends, while several former militant commanders received pipeline-protection contracts. Relative peace returned and oil output increased, reaching 2.2 million barrels a day by the time Buhari was elected in 2015.
When Buhari started to cancel the deals, attacks resumed and oil production plunged.
While he eventually resumed the payments, nothing has been done to address a 16-point set of demands for more local control of oil resources and investment in infrastructure to achieve peace presented to Buhari by the Pan-Niger Delta Elders Forum in December 2016.
More than two years later, the discussions haven’t advanced, according to Edwin Clark, the 93-year-old leader of the forum.
Buhari now faces the choice of resolving the delta problem or kicking the can down the road as most of his predecessors did, according to Mitee, the rights activist who led the government panel that initiated the amnesty plan in 2008.
“If the government wants to just play along and do some appeasement during the four years and carry over the fundamental problems, then it will just be business as usual,” he said. “In this case, we are transferring the doomsday to the future.”
By Dulue Mbachu and Elisha Bala-Gbogbo
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
The government of Nigeria says itis starting the repatriation process of up to 20,000 girls who’ve been trafficked to Mali. In January, the national agency fighting human trafficking said many of these girls, who’ve been tricked with promises of getting jobs in Europe, ended up working as sex slaves in mining camps of Mali.
Precious is one of several thousand Nigerian girls and young women trafficked and sexually exploited in Mali. In two years she suffered countless indignities and almost lost her life. She is staying back to seek justice and compensation from the woman who trafficked her.
Related stories: Video - Nigeria struggles to rescue 20,000 girls from Mali sex trade
Video - Nigerian women trafficked to Europe for prostitution at 'crisis level'
Nigeria's international sex-trafficking ring
The former general’s party, the All Progressives Congress, has won more than 60 of the 109 Senate seats and is heading for a majority in the lower House of Representatives, according to partial results announced by the election commission.
The APC controlled the upper chamber during most of Buhari’s first term. But he regularly sparred with senior members, not least Senate President Bukola Saraki, which hindered his economic reforms and delayed the passing of budgets for months. Saraki’s loss of his seat in the Feb. 23 general elections and Buhari’s emphatic victory -- he won by a margin of 56 percent to 41 percent over opposition leader Atiku Abubakar -- mean the 76-year-old leader may have an easier ride from the legislature this time.
“The elections have strengthened Buhari’s parliamentary majority,” said Amaka Anku, the head of New York-based Eurasia Group’s Africa practice. “The upcoming battle for parliamentary leadership presents an opportunity for Buhari to forge a better relationship with the legislature and improve executive-legislative coordination. That could quicken the pace of routine governance tasks, like budget passage and confirmation of ministers.”
Buhari will need the help of lawmakers if he’s to make headway tackling Nigeria’s most pressing problems. While the constitution gives plenty of power to the president, many decisions -- including appointments of ministers and senior positions at the central bank -- have to be approved by the National Assembly.
“He is looking forward to a mutual and effective working relationship with the National Assembly toward improving the budgetary process and restoring the country to the January-December fiscal cycle,” the presidency said in a statement Monday. “The delay in the passage of budgets hindered timely execution of projects across the country.”
The economy, which is yet to fully recover from a 2014 crash in oil prices, and jobs will be a priority for Buhari. Growth accelerated to 1.9 percent last year, but it’s still far below the average of 7.4 percent during the first 15 years of this century. Unemployment almost tripled to 23 percent during Buhari’s first four years in power.
He’s also facing security threats, including an insurgency in the northeastern state of Borno being waged by Boko Haram and Islamic State and clashes between farmers and herders over grazing land that killed 2,000 people last year, according to Amnesty International.
“Buhari’s second term in office is unlikely to yield many surprises,” said Malte Liewerscheidt, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence in London. “Rather, Buhari 2.0 can be expected to double down on his well-known social intervention programs alongside a focus on infrastructure investment and protectionist policies. Moreover, major changes to the monetary and foreign-exchange policy seem unlikely, barring sustained shocks to global oil prices or domestic crude production.”
The central bank operates a system of multiple exchange rates and tightly manages the value of the naira, which the International Monetary Fund has said deters investors. Abubakar, Buhari’s main rival in the elections, pledged to float the currency if he won.
Nigerians also voted for governors in 29 of the country’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory last weekend, and results are still coming in. The APC won Lagos, the commercial capital. The European Union said there were “systemic failings” and condemned security agencies for barring citizens from counting centers in oil-rich Rivers state, which is held by Abubakar’s People’s Democratic Party.
Even if Buhari gets a strong majority in parliament, there’s no guarantee he’ll make decisions quicker, according to Eurasia. Critics say he’s responded slowly to crises since coming to power in 2015. And lawmakers, including those in his own party, may continue to defy him.“It should not be taken for granted that just because they belong to the same party they would take the same position on issues,” said Kemi Okenyodo, executive director of Partners West Africa-Nigeria, an organization that lobbies for good government.
By Paul Wallace
Monday, March 11, 2019
According to reports Russia's World Cup was used by Nigerian sex traffickers to entrap unsuspecting women. Traffickers used fan IDs allowing visa free-entry into Russia to ferry women and girls into the country.
Friday, March 8, 2019
Women's groups have been mobilising support for female candidates seeking office, appealing to women voters to utilise their numerical strength to support their own during the governorship and state house of assembly elections.
"Women have to rise up and now that some of us are here to challenge the status quo, it should be an encouragement," Adebisi Ogunsanya, who is running for the first time, told Al Jazeera.
"I encourage them to vote for me because I understand what their problems are," Ogunsanya said on Thursday as campaigning ended.
She is seen as a dark horse in the race to become the governor of Lagos state because of her minimal political experience. She's also contesting under a new political platform, the Young Progressive Party (YPP), in the commercial capital, Lagos.
Ogunsanya will be up against 38 male and six other female candidates.
A total of 80 female candidates will be vying for state governorship positions across 29 states. They will face a total of 987 male candidates, many of whom are well-funded and grounded in political history.
However, what female candidates lack in financial muscle is compensated by their voting power as they constitute 47 percent - 39.6 million out of 84 million eligible voters registered by the electoral commission.
Women's groups such as the Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF) are providing support to ease the burden of female candidates as part of its commitment to growing the pool of women in the political space.
"We are providing technical support to our women seeking elective positions. We encourage our women to vote women and we also encourage the women to pay attention to the manifestos of the various candidates," NWTF spokesperson Mufilat Fijabi told Al Jazeera.
The group, established in 2011, aims to address "growing concerns about gender imbalance in elective and appointive positions", according to a statement on its website.
Some political analysts, however, are not convinced women can pull off any major upsets in Saturday's elections.
"The top of the tickets for the major parties is basically an all-boys club. There will be a couple of female deputy governors but that won't be an upset," Stanley Azuakola, founder of vote-watchdog Civic Monitor, told Al Jazeera.
"Frankly, women are yet to collectively see the lack of female voices at the table as a serious issue," says Azuakola.
February's presidential and legislative elections were marred by allegations of violence, vote-rigging, and voter suppression.
This resulted in low voter turnout across the country with voters and electoral commission officials killed and injured.
The scale of the election violence, especially in Lagos, has left Ogunsanya and other candidates worried about security for Saturday's vote.
But she's confident women will turn out despite the risks to support female candidates.
"Barring any threats and violence, I expect the women to vote for me," said Ogunsanya.
By Mercy Abang
Thursday, March 7, 2019
Nigeria is struggling to bring home an estimated 20,000 girls trapped in Mali. The victims of the sex trade are kept in appalling conditions. Officials say collusion between law enforcement agents and traffickers is hampering the rescue efforts.
Related stories: Video - Nigerian women trafficked to Europe for prostitution at 'crisis level'
Nigeria's international sex-trafficking ring
20,000 Nigerian girls trafficked to Mali for prostitution
She arrived in the country on a fan ID, which allowed visa-free entry to World Cup spectators with match tickets but did not permit them to work.
Despite that, Ms Obuson said she had hoped to work as a shop assistant to provide for her two-year-old daughter and younger siblings back in Nigeria.
However, she said, she was locked in a flat on the outskirts of Moscow and forced into sex work along with 11 other Nigerian women.
They were supervised by a madam, also from Nigeria.
She said the madam confiscated her passport and told her she'd only get it back once she worked off a fictional debt of $50,000.
Ms Obuson told her story to a rare English-speaking client, who then informed anti-slavery activists, who later rescued her.
According to her lawyer, and statements from prosecutors, two Nigerians were arrested and charged with human trafficking after a sting operation in which they agreed to sell Ms Obuson for two million roubles (about $43,000) to a police officer posing as a client.
'They spit in your face'
Ms Obuson's case is not isolated. Reuters met with eight Nigerian women aged between 16 and 22 who said they were brought into Russia on fan IDs and forced into sex work.
All said they had endured violence.
"They don't give you food for days, they slap you, they beat you, they spit in your face … It's like a cage," said a 21-year old woman, who declined to be named.
In September, a Nigerian woman was killed by a man who refused to pay for sex, Russian police said.
The Nigerian embassy later identified her as 22-year-old Alifat Momoh, who had come to Russia from Nigeria with a fan ID.
Russian police said 1,863 Nigerians who entered the country with fan IDs had not left by January 1, the date when the IDs expired.
Kenny Kehindo, who works with several Moscow NGOs to help sex trafficking victims, estimated that more than 2,000 Nigerian women were brought in on fan IDs.
Neither Russian police nor the Nigerian embassy in Moscow replied to requests for comment. A Nigerian Foreign Ministry spokesman also did not respond to text messages and phone calls requesting comment.
"Many are still in slavery," said Mr Kehindo.
He said he had helped about 40 women return to Nigeria.
He called for more cooperation between the authorities and anti-trafficking NGOs during major sporting events — including at the 2022 Qatar World, where a fan ID system was also being considered.
Anti-slavery group Alternativa said its helpline had fielded calls from Nigerian women held in St Petersburg and other World Cup host cities.
While a prosecution has been launched in Ms Obuson's case, police have been unable to act against suspected traffickers in other cases due to a lack of evidence.
"A lot of girls are still out there," said Ms Obuson.
Related stories: The illegal sex trafficking trail between Nigeria and Europe
Video - Nigerian women trafficked to Europe for prostitution at 'crisis level'
Nigeria's international sex-trafficking ring
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Ozuruonye Juliet Kalu was abducted on 27 February as she travelled home in the south-eastern city of Abia.
It is unclear whether a reported ransom was paid, but authorities confirmed her release around 2300 GMT on Monday.
"It is true that she was released to her family," Godfrey Ogbonna, of Abia State police, told BBC Sport.
"I can also confirm that investigations are ongoing to arrest those responsible.
"We will make a public statement as soon as more details emerge but for now, she is safe and reunited with her family at home."
Despite the kidnapping, Kalu has been included in Bordeaux's squad for their rescheduled French Ligue 1 fixture against Montpellier on Tuesday.
The 21-year-old, who was named in Nigeria's squad on Monday for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against the Seychelles and a friendly versus Egypt, has scored once in five appearances for the Super Eagles since his debut last year.
Kidnappings - more often of oil workers, the rich and famous - are a regular occurrence in Nigeria, but footballers and their families are increasingly being targeted.
Current Nigeria captain John Mikel Obi's father was kidnapped for the second time in seven years in June, before being released after a ransom of 10 million naira (about $27,500) was paid.
In 2008, the brother of former Everton defender Joseph Yobo was kidnapped before being released two weeks later.
Kalu joined Bordeaux from Belgian club KAA Gent in August 2018.
By Oluwashina Okeleji
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
The 31-year-old, who has been impressive at English championship club Middlesbrough, has not played for his country since he captained the Super Eagles at last year's World Cup in Russia.
Despite public assurances from coach Gernot Rohr that Mikel would make a return, the player has been left out of the 23-man squad for the home fixtures in Asaba on 22 and 26 March respectively.
But the door appears to remain open for the former Chelsea star.
"The coach is very happy that Mikel is playing well for Middlesbrough at a very good level," team spokesman Toyin Ibitoye told BBC Sport.
"He's definitely part of the team but coach Rohr believes he has to take things easy with him so as not to overload him," Ibitoye added.
Rohr has handed maiden call-ups to uncapped Denmark-based striker Paul Onuachu and under-20 defender Valentine Ozornwafor, while there is a recall for former U-17 World Cup winner Victor Osimhen.
Struggling Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho has been overlooked after failing to score a goal for club or country since September, but England-based quintet of Wilfred Ndidi, Alex Iwobi, Leon Balogun, Semi Ajayi and Oghenekaro Etebo are included.
Also present is the experienced quartet of Odion Ighalo, joint-top scorer in qualifying with six goals, Troost-Ekong, Ahmed Musa and John Ogu.
Champions in 2013, Nigeria have already secured qualification for this year's tournament in Egypt after failing to reach back-to-back events in 2015 and 2017.
Nigeria 23-man squad:
Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (Anorthosis Famagusta, Cyprus); Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Katsina United); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa)
Defenders: Olaoluwa Aina (Torino, Italy); Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor, Turkey); Valentine Ozornwafor (Enyimba); Chidozie Awaziem (Rizespor, Turkey); William Troost-Ekong (Udinese, Italy); Leon Balogun (Brighton & Hove Albion, England); Kenneth Omeruo (Leganes, Spain); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn, Germany)
Midfielders: Semi Ajayi (Rotherham United, England); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Oghenekaro Etebo (Stoke City, England); John Ogu (Hapoel Be'er Sheva, Israel)
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Al Nassr, Saudi Arabia); Victor Osimhen (Charleroi SC, Belgium); Moses Simon (Levante, Spain); Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray, Turkey); Odion Ighalo (Shanghai Shenhua, China); Alex Iwobi (Arsenal, England); Samuel Kalu (Bordeaux, France); Paul Onuachu (FC Midtjyland, Denmark)
By Oluwashina Okeleji
Monday, March 4, 2019
According to the spokesman for the the Nembe Chiefs Council, Chief Nengi James-Eriworio, the blast early on Friday caused massive oil spillage in the Nembe kingdom in Bayelsa state.
The Nembe trunk line is operated by the Port Harcourt-based Aiteo Group and carries crude oil to the Bonny export terminal. Aiteo has yet to comment on the explosion. It was not immediately clear if the pipeline has been shut down.
Video obtained by local media shows a large blaze from the ruptured pipeline at night as villagers look on. “If they turn off the oil well from the station, the pressure inside the pipeline would reduce, causing the flame to burn out,” one person is heard in the background explaining.
The Niger Delta is highly polluted. Nigerian oil companies usually assert that the majority of oil spills are caused by sabotage, theft and illegal refining.
Fatal accidents caused by leaking pipelines are common. In January, an overturned oil tanker exploded in Odukpani in Cross River state while dozens of people were scooping up the leaking fuel. Police said at least 12 people were killed while some witnesses estimated up to 60 were dead.
Hundreds of people have died in similar accidents in recent years in Africa’s largest oil producing country as impoverished people risk their lives to collect fuel leaking from pipelines or trucks.
By Eric Oteng
Friday, March 1, 2019
President Muhammadu Buhari says there are no doubts as to his re-election. Buhari spoke at the electoral commission ceremony to confirmed his victory.The incumbent secured 55 percent of the votes cast. His challenger Atiku Abubakar is contesting the results in court. President Buhari has denied all claims of rigging and electoral malpractices.